Ghana’s sports ministry seeks to ban European football on free-to-air television

Ghana's ex-sports minister Mahama Ayariga

Ghana’s ex-sports minister Mahama Ayariga

Ghana’s sports ministry is seeking a ban on the telecasting of live European matches on free-to-air television in the country in a bid to boost the flagging fortunes of the local league, the outgoing sports minister Mahama Ayariga has stated.

The move, which was first mooted by the Ghana Football Association (GFA)’s Director of Communications Ibrahim Sannie Daara early this year, will be tabled before parliament for consideration as a measure to protect the local game which employs about 50,000 people.

Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama in his state-of-the-nation called on sports authorities in the country to put in efforts to revive the local league and one of the key factors affecting the game in the country is live European football on television particularly free-to-air.

England boasts of the most popular league in the world with the English Premier League yet the United Kingdom government regulation prevents the telecasting of live matches on free-to-air television of the country’s top-flight in the country.

The move by the English authorities is meant to compel fans in England to attend the English Premier League matches and by extension boosting the popularity of the game at home.

Yet the English Premier League sells free-to-air rights to foreign countries despite banning it at home – a calculated and clever move meant to attract the attention of fans in other countries thus killing interest in their local game.

Ayariga says a similar tactic adopted by the English Premier League to protect their game at home and boost attendances must be deployed in Ghana by preventing free-to-air television stations from broadcasting live Europeans matches to protect the local game.

“I am told that in some countries in Europe during league matches, apart from those on pay TV, you cannot show matches free-to-air. And yet, even in Europe where the match is being played the match is being played they cannot show it live yet the match is being shown live here in Accra,” Ayariga, who has now been moved to the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, said on Citi FM’s  Sports Panorama.

“So how do you expect your own local league to develop? I think that that is something that we need to address. I have asked someone to carry out a technical analysis for us to review….I am going to send a memo to Parliament.

“These are things that you must regulate. We must also insist that you can’t show these matches live at the time where we are playing our local league, because it serves as a disincentive for Ghanaians going to the stadium to watch [local matches]. We have to think about regulating that.”

Mr. Ayariga added that while European football matches are still broadcast on free-to-air Ghanaian media platforms, football fans will always opt for the “better option” often at the expense of the local league.

“At the time that the league is taking place, your domestic league should be the only option you should have. If we give you alternatives and those alternatives are better than your domestic league, why would you go to the stadium in the scorching sun to watch Kotoko and Hearts play when two big teams in Europe are playing a match,” he argued.

“Why would I go and watch Olympics when Barcelona is playing? That is the reality. If people are given a choice they go for the better option. If in Europe they find it necessary to regulate that, why won’t we also regulate that,” he said.

The broadcast of English Premier League, Spanish La Liga and the German Bundesliga in Ghana is big business for the media houses and while Mr. Ayariga acknowledged that he would face resistance from the media, he stated that the move was necessary and was the only way to promote the local league.

“It might not sound palatable to some of the media houses but it is a battle that we must fight because that is the only way we can protect the local league. I know the media houses will fight me, they will resist but we need to do this to promote the local league,” the Minister said.

Sannie Daara, who lived in the UK and worked for the BBC for nearly ten years, was subjected to media attacks -particularly those who own free-to-air television rights – when he proposed the move on free-t0-air to protect the local game in January.

Even though he revealed other factors affecting the popularity of the game locally, he strongly argued that the protection of the local game by the regulatory authorities will boost the local league while protecting the jobs of the 50,000 people who are employed directly or indirectly by the Ghana Premier League.

He said if England with all of its wealth can offer this protection for its local league, Ghana must be emulating them to ensure their competition the First Capital Plus Premier League is protected.

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